Noisy Combat Aircraft

Not really a GQ, since noisy seems kind of subjective.

But, are all combat aircraft noisy? Shouldn’t noise concerns be included in stealth?
While working near Tinker AFB on a couple of rentals, I noticed that every single combat aircraft that came in was quite a bit noisier than the transports, tankers, AWACs, and passenger planes. All were jets.

Got to see the B-2 fly! Noisy.

B-1 - Noisy

B-52 - Made my freakin’ ears bleed noisy! 8 HUGE engines!

I swear I saw a couple of F-4s. Really, amazingly noisy.

And the Black Hawk 'copters gave me an air massage with their beating the air to smithereens.
Could it have something to do with being ultra high performance? Like funny cars and top fuel rail dragsters?

The times I’ve enjoyed seeing vintage combat aircraft, like at CAF shows or this place near Wily Post Airport that refurbishes vintage warplanes, I’ve taken note of their extreme noise levels.

At least one B-17 has been here. I heard an odd rumbling while inside a house I working on near Wiley Post. Even the windows were shaking. I ran outside just in time to see that beautiful machine coming in on a landing approach. Magnificent!

They did a P-38 not too long ago. I thought the Mustang (P-51) had a distinctive sound, imagine having two super high performance engines (V-12?) with superchargers! They did a couple of low altitude, high speed passes. I doubt it was at full throttle, though. Wow. No wonder those two machines inspired fear and awe when they were cutting edge.

The Vought F-4U Corsair had an interesting sound,. Possibly due to that giant propeller? Even from a land based field, its super quick accelleration on take off was a thing of beauty. And it was very loud.
So, do I have a question here? Yeah, sort of. I guess.

While it’s easy to detect a plane with the human ear, it’s damn near impossible to track it by it’s sound. You also can’t detect it until it’s nearly right on top of you, generally well within the range of any ordnance it’s carrying.

Underwater, though, this all changes. Hence, the wonderful world of sonar.

Because by the time you hear them, they’re on top of you and it’s too late to do anything anyway.

Besides, sometimes the noise has a psychological effect. I think the Germans used to put sirens on the Stukas to scare the bejezus out of the guys on the ground.

Jets are loud by their very nature, because they’re moving large volumes of air very fast through a relatively small hole. Military ones are bigger and move the air faster than civilian ones.

Military piston engines – the B-17’s four 1820-cubic-inch radials and the P-51 and P-38’s 1650-c.i. Merlin V12s (they both have the same engines, the P-38 just has two to the Mustang’s one), and the Corsair’s 2800-c.i. radial – are loud because, for performance reasons, they don’t have mufflers. And they’re over five times the size of the engine in, say, a Cessna (which do have mufflers).

(emphasis added)

This is incorrect. The P-38 Lightning used two Allison V-1710 V12s. You may be confused on this issue because the original model of the Mustang also used (just one) Allison V-1710. The nomenclature is a bit confusing, because the first Mustangs were produced for the RAF (they were supposed to be P-40’s, but North American said they could produce a new design as fast as they could retool to build the P-40 under license). The Allison-engined Mustang was alternatively called the Mustang Mk1, the P-51A, or the A-36 Apache. Despite having excellent flight characteristics, these models sucked at altitude because of inferior supercharging, so the Brits, realizing that the Allison and the latest Merlin were very comparable in size, weight, and power output, but that the Merlin kicked butt at altitude, bolted Merlins onto a few of their Mk1’s, and the rest, as they say, is history. Packard acquired a license from Rolls to build the Merlin, and the Mustang became the definitive American WWII fighter.

My favorite example was at the last airshow at Pease Air Force Base before it was decommisioned, the Blue Angels were performing their airshow maneuvers, 4 of them in a diamond formation, the crowd watched transfixed as they performed their graceful maneuvers…

suddenly, a blue streak buzzed over our heads and a couple of seconds later we were slammed by the roar from the jetwash…

“Now that #4 has your attention, you can see how a modern jet fighter can sneak up almost undetected on it’s target” said the announcer

they then demonstrated the same concept with another BA at the far end of the runway, the F-18 approached the crowd at almost supersonic speeds (i’d estimate around Mach .85 or .9, just shy of going supersonic), while the Hornet was approaching us it was dead quiet, after it flew over, we were hit with the wall of sound from the afterburners…

another great example was a F-14 Tomcat pilot doing 2 demos, the short-field takeoff and later, a 9G “Turn and Burn”

Short field takeoff; pilot ramps up his engines to full afterburner and stands on his brakes, once thrust has built to 101% full millitary thrust, the pilot releases the brakes, rolls about the distance between two telephone poles, pulls back on the stick and stands the Tomcat on the afterburners, it takes off like a rocket…

9G T.A.B.; the pilot was flying at a distance, you could barely make out the aircraft, he fires up the afterburners, pulls into a 9G turn, and the ground shook where we were, he was easily at least 1/4 mile out, the only thing you could see was the orange glow from the afterburners…

Actually, the German Stuka dive bomber was fitted with “noisemakers” which made it screech while diving. I guess it didn’t sound fearful enough on it’s own.

I am recalling a few years ago an air show I went to included a demonstration by a Harrier. This is the fixed-wing plane that does vertical manuvers.

The demonstration included vertical manuvering, and while doing that manuvering the noise it made was just incredible. I can’t recall personally hearing anything louder before or since.

When an F-15 Eagle has undergone a major (engine removed) service the plane is taken for an “Eagle departure” Plane takes off, gear up, flaps up, full burner, and then the pilot flies STRAIGHT UP.
When I had an office in Portland it was just a few hundred yards off the east end of the Portland International Airport. Just about the point that the Eagle went vertical.
The jetwash would make the concrete walls of my building shake. Impressive.

My sister lived right under the flight path from McChord AFB. On the weekends, the reservists would practice how to take off and land B-52s. They literally looked like they were barely clearing the trees. And there’s no way to describe how loud they are unless you’ve heard it yourself. I swear that’s the reason my sister’s stepson had a kind of rocky start in life. He’s better now though.

Durn link.](

If this doesn’t work, you’ll have to find a pic yourself. :::Grumble, grumble:::

Yea, the Wal-Mart where I went as a kid was right under the approach path for the airport, which also housed an Air Force Base.

There’s nothing like feeling the ground start to rumble, then hearing this horrible, high-pitched jet engine scream, and then looking up to see an A-10 about 10 feet above your head comin’ right for ya.

I live about six miles from Falcon Field, home of the Arizona wing of the CAF and their B-17G Sentimental Journey, probably the same one you saw. Summers she’s on tour, but she spends the winter here and about once a month on average, she’ll fly past the house about 1,500 feet AGL. It’s quite impressive and there’s no mistaking the sound once you’ve heard it. Thursday she went by accompanied by three AT-6s; I went out to watch.


Huh. I always thought they both switched at the same time, but further research shows that Lockheed never got around to putting Merlins in the P-38, although the idea was bandied about.
Speaking of loud piston engines, a Lockheed Constellation flew low over my house once during an airshow at the nearby airport. Four 3350-c.i. radials… same basic roar as a B-17, but twice as loud.
I’ve been to Barksdale AFB a few times (they have a museum just off the field), and the B-52s were taking off. Now that’s an earth-shattering roar.

[shameless brag]

Speaking of B-17’s; They’re incredibly noisy on the inside too. N48543 holds the most honored position in my logbook. (Only got to fly it for a short time, but it was fantastic) :slight_smile:

[/shameless brag]


When the Geldings lived in government quarters in Germany the dawn patrol out of Ramstein AFB came in through the bedroom window and out through the kitchen. Two Phantoms about four seconds apart. We did not require an alarm clock. A half hour later they came back by way of the kitchen. They were a lot louder going out than coming back.

This is probably why the OP was asking the question. Jets doing touch-and-go clutch time are generally doing high power, low altitude, low speed turns with gear down. The noise is tremendous, and in many communities this is not permitted; the planes must make more gradual turns after the “touch”. As others have said, a plane at altitude and speed is not the same as a plane on takeoff.

Height also makes a big difference on the distance you can hear a plane from - where I live is very near to where F15s practice dogfighting and is under the flightpath of Tornados bombing a nearby factory.

When a Tornado is making a high-speed run at the factory, I can hear it coming about 2-3 seconds before it passes overhead at about 150 feet.
When the F15s are about I have about 10 seconds warning until they come overhead at (I’m guessing) 5,000 feet (I can see they’re F15s so they can’t be that high, and lower than airliners).

Yeah, airshows and airports are my experience.

The simulated battles at some of the airshows would probably cause malfuntions of some peoples bladders.
How loud were the buzz bombs (V-1) of WWII?

What did it sound like on the ground during those ET 1000 bomber missions? (Besides BOOM! argh…)

I would think a supersonic stealth plane would be the bees knees! Ground hugging, low profile to heat seeking and radar, outrunning it’s own noise.

Everyone’s made some pretty good points, too. Thanks.

<Green with envy>: Awesome!

As so many people here have experienced, the engines on military aircraft are designed for performance first.

Anything with an afterburner is going to be loud even with the “reheat” (a neat British term) off. It’s due to jet engine design - the newer, quiet airliner and bizjet engines use high-bypass ratio fan engines. They use the core of the jet to turn a very big compressor section, which ends up moving a VERY large amount of air, but at a lower speed than the core. This air provides a tremendous amount of thrust and has the added benefit of surrounding the “fast” air at the core; ie the air that makes the most noise.

Afterburners basically throw fuel and ignition into the exhaust, using a variable nozzle to control the mayhem. Very large diameter engines not only mean a very large nozzle, but also vastly different exhaust speeds which translates to decreased afterburner performance. Thus, afterburning engines are low-bypass fans that can maintain an overall “narrow” profile and are noisy even without the added energy of the burners being lit.

Non-afterburning aircraft that are very noisy (the B-52, KC-135E or C-141B to name a few that are still active) are using older jet engines. The noise restrictions for civilian airports would prevent a B-52, say, from taking off out of San Diego Intl, but that’s an unlikely event in the first place. Military bases don’t have the same noise requirements that civilian airports do.



If you want to see (or hear) LOUD, check out this XF-84H “Thunderscreech”. It gave the groundcrew “nausea and headaches”!!

Now THAT’s loud!